Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yet another book that sat on my shelves collecting dust, until finally I picked it up. Of course, now I'm kicking myself for delaying the pleasure of such an absorbing read.

Lady Emily Ashton, newly widowed, is finding that Victorian society allows her more freedom than if she were married. Despite her guilt at feeling no grief at the demise of her husband she throws herself into learning about his life and interests. Which leads her to a study of Greek, the Antiquities and Homer.

But she also unearths mysterious goings on at the British Museum, falls foul of burglars in Paris and meets impressionist painter Renoir. To tell you any more is to give the plot away.

This book has been described as Jane Austen meets The Da Vinci Code and I couldn't agree more. Here is a heroine who is completely at home in the drawing rooms of high society, yet does not flinch in immersing herself in dangerous mysteries.

I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to reading the next five books about Lady Emily Ashton.

This review is an entry in the Historical Reading Challenge 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This Sunday our oldest son returns home from a four week tour of Europe. He went with a church group from Christchurch to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, they have also visited London, Paris, several smaller towns in France and Spain and are now in Rome.

In typical male teenage fashion his communications have been brief and often monosyllabic: "London is fantastic" or "I ate escargo in the artist's quarter". What he liked about London and whether or not he enjoyed those escargo will have to wait until I see him in person. I suspect I may need to tie him to the couch and beat it out of him, but I will at last know!! His most informative comment has been "The Eiffel Tower is a blot on the landscape". I do wonder if that is related to his fear of heights. Personally I like the Eiffel Tower and was hoping for some memento from it.

The thing is, we all have our own point of view. We all see things differently. And that translates to our writing. Supposedly there are only eight different stories in the world. (I have heard of varying numbers on this, but all of them are small.) So how come we don't get bored reading these same stories? Because they are all told from a different point of view. By this I mean the author's point of view, not the character's.

We all have different world views which colour our renditions of similar plots. We have different life experiences, faiths, beliefs etc and these emerge in our writing without us even trying. Our personalities live between the lines of our writing.

I'll leave you with two photos from my son, as they were the inspiration for this post. The first is Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. Now I have photographed this many times but never had I thought to do it this way. My photos always included the whole column and a lion or two as well.

The second is St Paul's Cathedral. The first time I looked at this photo I thought how it was crooked, that he was too close, and the angle was all wrong. But on second glance I feel in love with his different 'point of view'!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Despite a fascination for Italy, I haven't read many stories set in this beautiful country. There was Cornelia Funke's wonderful 'The Thief Lord' which I read to my children and another YA book who's title eludes me and now this, an adult historical fiction set in Venice.

The name Murano drew me to this book. I had only heard this name in association with the glass beads that are so popular at the moment and I was fascinated to discover that Murano glass is Venetian glass and has been made for centuries.

The story crosses between Corradino Manin, a great glassblower of Venice in the 1600s and Nora Manin, an English girl with a Venetian father, from the present day.

Escaping from an unhappy life, Nora returns to Venice dreaming of using her glassblowing skills in one of the famous Venetian glass factories.

Nora unveils the secrets of her ancestor - the great Corradino, the story playing out against a  background of Venetian history and the intricacies of glassmaking.

This is a book which not only tells a great story, but paints a perfect picture of Venice and illustrates the intricacies of glassblowing.  I highly recommend it.

This is an entry in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Last night the results of the latest competition for the Dunedin Writer's Workshop was announced. Actually, being the president, I've known who the winners were for a week or more, but of course was sworn to secrecy.

The theme for our 3000 word story was crime/mystery and as I mentioned back in June here, I wrote about a stagecoach journey.  And now I'm very pleased to be able to tell you that I won first place!

After all the stops and starts and various interruptions to my writing this year, winning the trophy is just the shot in the arm I need.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


This is one of those wonderful books that elicits a satisfied sigh as you turn the last page. I finished reading it this morning and the characters are still with me. Although it ended in just the right place I can't help wondering what happens next in this young girl's life.

In a year where the telephone comes to town, new wind machines cool the air and inventions like automobiles are heard of but yet to be seen, Calpurnia discovers her Grandaddy: a cantankerous figure who spends his days studying plants and insects. He opens up a whole new world of science and nature, but in 1899 an eleven year old girl needs to learn to cook and sew and knit.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The insights into the workings of an eleven year old mind and the relationship with her grandfather are truly convincing. Her six brothers stand out as completely formed characters and the interaction between them was delightful.

This is Jacqueline Kelly's first novel. I hope she writes many more.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A whole week has passed since I last posted. A week where I have worked hard at getting my Blackbird manuscript into shape. I've juggled with the time line; had scenes that were set in winter that I've had to change to summer, deliberated over which scenes are important and which can go. Said good bye to a couple of characters and stepped up the importance of others. And I've blended a few scenes together too. They have been the most fun. Upping the tension and drama, moving the story along at a much better pace.

Last night I finished writing out the new plan on a time line then wrote a post-it note for every scene. I found when I was doing NaNo last year that this is what works for me. I stick the post-it note on the wall in front of me and write that scene and nothing but that scene.

 Now I have to knuckle down and write. I haven't got as much free time as when I did NaNo, but I am determined to get this story finished.

Today's scene involves a ride into town, the surprise purchase of something very special, then finishes with a heart stopping episode.